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New Memory of Understanding between Åbo Akademi University and Stanford University within the area of democracy research

Åbo Akademi University has signed a Memory of Understanding (MOU) with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California as part of its research profiling. The MOU, which was signed with the Stanford Center for Deliberative Democracy, primarily involves researcher mobility and joint research.

– I am extremely glad that we were able to formalise our co-operation with one of the best universities in the world,” says Kimmo Grönlund, Professor of political science and Director of the Social Science Research Institute (Samforsk) at Åbo Akademi University.

The agreement is the result of co-operation between Professor James Fishkin of Stanford and Grönlund. Fishkin’s model for Deliberative Polling® is currently used by policy-makers all over the world. Over the past 12 years, Grönlund’s team has conducted controlled experiments in deliberative democracy with ordinary Finns as participants.

– Fishkin’s Center has had a clear policy-orientation, while our research has been primarily scientific in focus. With closer co-operation, both parties can take advantage of each other’s strengths, says Grönlund.

A common denominator in these deliberative democracy models is that participants are first provided with information and then discussions are held in small groups. The objective is to achieve more well-reasoned opinions through increased knowledge, an understanding of others’ views and self-reflection. In deliberative citizen panels, participants are chosen on a somewhat random basis, whereas in current representative democracies, representatives are chosen through elections. Thus, citizen panels can be utilized to find out how an informed public opinion on important political issues looks like.

The co-operation between Åbo Akademi University and Stanford will take place primarily within the framework of the Minority Research Profile at Åbo Akademi University.

– Nearly all democratic decisions involve minority issues and the objective of deliberative democracy is to achieve consensus and, in that sense, potentially greater legitimacy for the decisions being made, explains Grönlund.

With its staff of 12, the Social Science Research Institute (Samforsk) is responsible for conducting research on democracy and public opinion at Åbo Akademi University. The Institute is located in both Åbo (Turku) and Vasa (Vaasa) and co-ordinates, for example, the Finnish National Election Survey (FNES) and the Barometer opinion survey, which is a series of surveys among the Swedish-speaking population in Finland. Samforsk and the political science cluster at Åbo Akademi University work in close co-operation and engage in extensive project collaboration. The research is primarily funded by the Academy of Finland.

A new Director of Research and a tenured Project Researcher have just been appointed at the Social Science Research Institute. The new Director of Research, Adjunct Professor Lauri Rapeli is currently heading a major project with Strategic Research funding from the Academy of Finland. The Participation in Long-Term Decision-Making (PALO, which is a Consortium led by Prof. Maija Setälä at the University of Turku) project explores solutions for long-term decision-making in Finland. A particular focus of the project is involving ordinary citizens in the decision-making process.

– It is especially gratifying to work together with civil servants and politicians, using scientific approaches to come up with concrete solutions for social problems, explains Rapeli.

Dr. Marina Lindell is the new project researcher at the Institute in Vaasa. Her research primarily focuses on deliberative democracy but she will also bear responsibility for survey projects at Samforsk.

Grönlund, Rapeli and Lindell will be visiting Professor Fishkin’s Center in the autumn to finalise their co-operation plans with Stanford. In the spring of 2019, Fishkin will visit Åbo Akademi University. A seminar open to the public will be held during his visit.


For more information, please contact Professor Kimmo Grönlund
Email: kimmo.gronlund@abo.fi
Tel: +358 (0)50 409 6409